A controversial topic indeed-many a people would avoid treading this thorny path!
The reason for this write up is an angry phone call from my Iyengar friend the other day. His friend teased him saying that he was not at all a Brahmin. The reasons given were not doing Sandhya Vandhanam etc.
I can feel the anger and anxiety in his tone. Immediately I asked him where his friend was. He told me that he was working with him in his London office. Then I said that, ‘’well, your friend is not all a Brahmin in the first place because he crossed the ocean. According to Manu Smrti one who crosses the sea loses his Brahmin-hood. As soon he heard it, he was immensely happy to know that his friend lost his status at one stroke.
Many people I have personally known have justified switching to non-vegetarian diet due to the so-called absence of vegetarian options; and particularly during international travel. They have even referenced the lives of mythological characters to justify this, such as Agastiar, while conveniently forgetting their great achievements.
Such qualifications of Brahmin-hood were taken to a new level when another of my other friends asked me a question ‘’Are you a Brahmin?”; I said ‘Yes’. He asked me what percentage of Brahmin I was. I was puzzled. When I asked for explanation he clarified that if I don’t drink (15%), don’t smoke (10%), don’t womanise(20%), don’t eat meat (20%), do Sandhya Vandhanam three times (15%) and don’t covet others money/property (20%) I am 100% cent percent Brahmin.
I thought for a while, “Oh my God, most of my friends in Chennai and London are going to lose their status as Brahmins”. Poor man he was he did not know Manu’s sloka banning foreign travel for Brahmins. It was also good that he did not talk about daily Vedadyanam, Aubhasanam, Agnihotram etc. Though I agreed with him in principle I did not agree with him on his mathematical model of Brahmin-hood!
Please don’t ask me what percentage of Brahmin I am. The answer is highly confidential. Not even my wife would know! But I will whisper into your ears one thing — I am not 100% Brahmin!!